#3. Landmine-Hunting Rats
Just as in many war-torn parts of the world, decades of war in Mozambique have left land mines scattered across the country, making large expanses of land too dangerous to develop.
So a guy named Bart Weetjens, thinking about how shitty it would be to walk through a minefield with a metal detector and hope for the best, decided that sending rats to do the job would be way better for all parties involved.
Except the rats.
OK, they're not just sending the rats out to explode the mines. You should be ashamed for thinking that.
No, the truth is actually weirder. Weetjens started a project that set about training the giant African pouched rat to smell explosives. The rats scamper across minefields, signaling when they find mines. Upon finding the mines, they scratch at the ground to alert their handlers, because as we all know, the best way to alert someone to the presence of a bomb is to slap at it with our hands. The handlers then reward the rat with food and remove the mine, and if all goes according to plan, nobody explodes.
Since they are native to Africa, the rats are less susceptible to local disease than, say, a bomb-sniffing dog. Also, the rats are in no danger because they don't weigh enough to trigger the mines. Their main drawback is that they are hard to control. Hell, how many of you even knew rats could be trained to do anything until just now?
Willard was more accurate than we ever dared dream.
But even trained, the rats don't run in a specific pattern, so their trainers had to develop a way to ensure that a rat sweeps an entire area. The rat wears a harness that's attached to a wire stretching across the minefield. When the rat has crossed from one side of the minefield to the other, the trainers move the wire over, and the rat crosses again: video of it here.
The rats are so effective that Weetjens' organization plans to clear 3.7 million square meters by 2014, after which it will be moving into Angola and the Congo. It has also shown that its rats can detect tuberculosis, which is just about the wackiest combination of jobs we at Cracked can imagine.
"I'm so sorry, sir ... you have tuberculosis. And a land mine hidden in your sternum."
#2. Mares in Heat Used to Distract War Horses
So we already have an instance of one side distracting its opponent's war animals by turning its own into huge balls of fire. What in the hell could be more effective in trying to distract your enemy's horses? Well, let's put it this way: They're male horses.
Which brings us to Pharaoh Thutmose III. He was a badass, made no less awesome by the fact that his name kind of looked like "titmouse." He led Egypt on 17 military campaigns, ruled over the largest Egyptian empire and is considered one of the greatest pharaohs of all time.
Second only to Mumm Ra.
He was such a military genius that his enemies had to develop creative tactics to use against him. For example, the king of Kadesh, an ancient city in what is now Syria, knew that the pharaoh rode on a chariot pulled by stallions.
He hatched an idea basically theorizing that no matter what level of wartime mayhem is exploding around in all directions, no penis in history can resist a vagina. Targeting the stallions pulling the Egyptian chariots, the king of Kadesh set loose a mare in heat to create a "distraction."
The result was a total disruption of the pharaoh's battle formation, as horses presumably ran wildly in every direction with raging, flapping boners. Detailed battlefield reports from ancient history are hard to come by, so it's impossible to tell how often this particular tactic was used. Although it seems to have been somewhat widespread, considering it made it into the Bible.
If there's one thing we've learned from the Bible, it's that God loves great, flapping horse-cocks.
Seriously. The Song of Solomon: "You are as exciting, my darling, as a mare among Pharaoh's stallions." Which, as we at Cracked have pointed out before, is a song about poontastic sex.
#1. Pigeons, and Pigeon-Hunting Falcons
In a time before wireless communication, when mail had to travel slowly on horseback, messenger pigeons were invaluable. For centuries, you could write up your note on a tiny piece of paper, and a trained pigeon would get it there -- this practice goes all the way back to the Persian Empire. Messenger pigeons were still common in World War I and were actually more reliable than telegrams.
"Can you read my pigeon-message now?
One bird, Cher Ami, delivered a message that saved almost 200 American soldiers who were cut off and under friendly artillery fire. Most impressive, it did so after being shot in the chest and losing a leg. We would have given up after we heard the first "bang." The story is kind of inspirational, if we just stopped there.
But during World War II, British intelligence discovered that their German counterparts were using pigeons to transmit messages across Europe. Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, hilariously declared himself head of the German National Pigeon Society without a single ounce of irony. He had pigeons dropped on Britain, where spies would attach messages to the pigeons' legs and send them to France.
"GET ME MY PIGEOOOONS!"
The British needed an answer to this, and none of them had heard of Alka-Seltzer. They created the Army Pigeon Service Special Section. Despite the name, the special section contained zero pigeons.
The unit was actually made up of peregrine falcons. Peregrine falcons are the fastest birds in the world. They hunt by flying high above their prey and diving down at up to 200 mph, striking their victims in midair and stunning or killing them on impact.
These falcons were trained to hunt and kill Himmler's Nazi messenger pigeons, which must have been pretty easy to do, considering peregrine falcons do the exact same thing in the wild without any sort of encouragement. They were released over the British Channel, and the result was something like this really gross video:
War is hell.
For more interesting uses of animals during times of war, check out 7 Insane Military Attempts To Weaponize Animals. Or learn about some critters that accomplished more than you ever will, in 7 Random Animals That Decided The Course of History.
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